Dear University of Florida community,
I’m writing to express my excitement about the promise ahead for UF as we prepare to continue our journey under the leadership of U.S. Sen. Dr. Ben Sasse, selected as our next president Tuesday by unanimous vote of the UF Board of Trustees.
Dr. Sasse presented an electrifying vision during his nearly two-hour interview with trustees, describing the opportunities ahead for UF and Florida as “breathtakingly exciting.”
“I genuinely believe this is the most interesting university in the country right now,” he said. “I think this is the most important institution in the most economically dynamic state in the union, and there is so much happening here.”
He outlined what he called “four grand theses.” First, he said, our age of technological disruption should make higher education even more relevant than in the past, with regard to both education and research. Second, universities will need to change in substantial ways to retain and increase their relevance amid this disruption. Third, the opportunities to lead this change for UF and Florida are greater than anywhere else in the country. And fourth, Dr. Sasse outlined a transition timeline for his first 12-18 months as president, starting with listening to the UF community and constituents and gathering ideas about how UF “can do more and better,” and then beginning strategic planning for the years ahead.
He said UF is highly unusual among public universities in enjoying substantial support from the state. Combined with the momentum and energy of staff, faculty and students, he said, UF can leap ahead in guiding the nation through coming massive changes to the nature of work, careers and education.
“I think Florida is better positioned than any other institution to help lead through this time not only of disruption, but also magnificent opportunity,” he said.
With enthusiasm that was palpable, Dr. Sasse embraced the tasks ahead of building bridges, establishing relationships and bringing people together around a shared vision. Responding to questions from trustees regarding concerns raised by UF’s LGBTQ+ community, he said he would continue President Kent Fuchs’ tradition of strongly supporting LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff. Regarding concerns about his background in politics, he committed to a “pledge of political celibacy,” saying that he will be laser-focused on being a servant-leader at UF and championing the university as a “Gator superfan.”
Dr. Sasse made clear in his discussion that he appreciates the vital importance of academic freedom, civil and full discussion of differing viewpoints, and the key role of the liberal arts in the educational experience. With his background in the business and political realms, I believe he will also be adept at securing the resources needed to help our faculty reach new heights in teaching and research.
From his background growing up the son of a teacher and wrestling coach in a middle-class family in a small Nebraska town, Dr. Sasse brings a commonsense, next-door-neighbor sensibility to working with others in tackling the complex matters that we will all face. For this and many other reasons, I am convinced he is the right person to lead UF into a bright and thrilling future.
As he ended his interview, Dr. Sasse described his vision for his primary responsibilities as UF’s president: Chief storyteller, cheerleader and salesperson.
Not only do we have a spectacular story to tell, we also have remarkable chapters yet to be written. I can’t think of a better author than Dr. Ben Sasse.
Chair, UF Board of Trustees
P.S. If you were unable to attend the meeting or watch the livestream Monday, the recording is here. I encourage you to watch the interview with Dr. Sasse beginning at the 1:21 mark.